The Baltimore Sun is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a conservative-leaning media outlet. That its coverage of the Freddie Gray case has been, for the most part less than helpful for the prosecution and the social justice narrative is not an indication that The Sun is striving to be balanced and professional, but that there is no actual known evidence against the officers. There is nothing to spin.
It is in editorials that The Sun reveals its real political leanings, and tries mightily to uphold the progressive, social justice as in this example:
Would Frosh’s racial profiling guidelines have saved Freddie Gray?
Attorney General Brian E. Frosh is poised to take a commendable step today in the effort to restore trust between the police and minority communities by issuing a set of guidelines designed to stop officers from using race, ethnicity or other characteristics as a factor in routine law enforcement. But as an investigation of Baltimore police practices by The Sun’s Catherine Rentz makes clear, it will be no easy thing to translate the principles Mr. Frosh is articulating into discernible change in neighborhoods like Freddy Gray’s Sandtown-Winchester.
It was prosecutor Marilyn Mosby that specifically directed the police to aggressively patrol the very intersection where Gray was first spotted and pursued. Considering that her concern was rampant drug dealing—which coincidently was occurring in her City Councilman husband’s district–and considering that Gray was a known drug dealer, it would be reasonable to suspect that “race, ethnicity or other characteristics” had nothing whatever to do with drawing the officer’s attention to Gray.
Because such efforts are fraught with ill-defined, feeling-laden good intentions and social justice articles of faith rather than specific, rational criteria, The Sun is right that implementing this fairy dust and unicorn flatulence will be no easy thing.
Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that race-based traffic stops were unconstitutional. What Mr. Frosh is not only seeking to extend that standard to all routine police work but to say that in most circumstances, race and other such characteristics should not be a factor at all.
This is the fundamental problem with social justice thinking versus the reality of policing (and reality in general). Using race as a sole criteria for making a stop of any kind—stopping someone for no reason other than an officer dislikes black people—is obviously unprofessional and often, illegal. The same applies to officers that hate blue Volkswagons, women with blonde hair, people driving pickup trucks, or people wearing button down shirts. In such cases, the problem is not primarily one of racial animus, but an officer that cannot behave professionally, a matter that is easy to resolve. For the social justice cracktivist, however, it’s always all about race and political advantage, and the only way to solve a nonexistent problem is to prohibit police from stopping, or in most cases, actually arresting the left’s favored victim group of the moment, in this case, black people.
As Mr. Frosh makes clear, standards are different if police are investigating a particular crime and have relevant information, such as an eyewitness account providing a physical description of a suspect. Even then, officers need to consider the credibility of the source. But the main thrust of the guidelines focuses on cases when police are operating without any information other than their observations.
That has great resonance in light of the Justice Department’s report about discriminatory policing practices in Ferguson, where a predominantly white police department seemed to view citations of African-Americans for minor offenses as a convenient means of funding the city’s budget.
As I recently noted in The Michael Brown Case, Update 16: Differing Definitions, Frosh and like-minded Progressives are not content merely to require officers to behave professionally and to follow the well-understood and long-settled guidelines of Terry v. Ohio, the Supreme Court case that defined the boundaries of police authority in stop and frisk situations. That case already defines “cases when police are operating without any information other than their observations.” Nothing else is required other than, on a case-by-case basis–which is done by the courts, not outside agitators–ensuring that officers stopping and frisking suspects had articulable reasonable suspicion.
The Ferguson “resonance” about which The Sun speaks is misleading at best. The DOJ’s assertions are based on unsupportable “disparate impact” analysis of statistics, and on the belief that black people should not be held to the same standards of behavior and obedience to the law as others. The assertion that the city of Ferguson funded the city by illegally citing blacks is just that: an assertion, unproven by any competent investigation or analysis. Note that The Sun qualifies its assertion by the use of “seemed.”
But what about Freddie Gray? Police were targeting his neighborhood for heightened enforcement, evidently as a result, at least in part, of a request from State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Police commanders in the Western District translated that into a demand for ‘deliverables’ — that is, stops, arrests and other measurable evidence of active policing.
Extraordinary. In any city, when one of the most powerful politicians—Mosby fits that bill—asks for enhanced patrol, the police are going to provide it. That wasn’t “in part,” why they were present, but the entire reason, apart from their normal distribution of duties. That means, in Baltimore and elsewhere, officers are to produce stops, citations and arrests, but not under any circumstances illegal or improper stops, citations and arrests. In many cities, the police will do the same upon the request of citizens, yet The Sun tries to make the reader believe the police were doing something unusual or improper. The Sun makes a stab at balance, but misses the point:
Did any of that happen because Freddie Gray was black? Ms. Mosby, who asked for the stepped-up enforcement, is black. About half of the police department is black, the chief at the time was black, and so is the mayor he worked for. Three of the six officers indicted in Freddie Gray’s death are black. As much as the Black Lives Matter movement has focused on mistreatment of African-Americans by white police officers, the story in Baltimore is more complex.
That neighborhood was almost entirely black, so virtually anyone the police stopped, in a specific district represented by Mosby’s husband Nick—who happens to be black—and targeted by Mosby, was going to be black regardless of the race of any officer involved. The Sun—progressives—see such things always through a racial lens regardless of the presence or absence of race as a factor. That’s as complex as it gets in this case.
In a story in Sunday’s Sun, Ms. Rentz presented an analysis of data showing that while the number of arrests for so-called nuisance crimes has dropped in recent years, blacks are still disproportionately targeted. Baltimore is about 64 percent African-American, but blacks accounted for 93 percent of those arrested for loitering and 84 percent of those arrested for trespassing in 2014, Ms. Rentz reported. Before possession of small amounts of marijuana was legalized, nearly 92 percent of those arrested for that crime in Baltimore were black, according to an ACLU analysis.
Yes? Your point? Black people, particularly urban blacks—and Baltimore is certainly no different—commit crimes of all kinds in numbers far out of proportion to their population distribution. A 64% black population committing 84% and 93% of a given class of crimes isn’t evidence of police misbehavior, but well within the limits of what one would expect. Remember too that these black criminals tend to victimize mostly other blacks, many of whom are poor.
As it did in Ferguson, the Justice Department is investigating Baltimore’s police department to determine whether those disparities are racially motivated. But the answer is likely not that simple. Police saturate high-crime neighborhoods, as they were doing in Sandtown on the morning Freddie Gray was arrested. In Baltimore, as a legacy of generations of official and then de facto segregation, those neighborhoods are almost entirely black and disproportionately poor.
Ah! Now it’s society’s—white people’s–fault for forcing poor black people to live in places like Sandtown, and no evidence otherwise will be accepted, because even if such segregation wasn’t “official,” it was “de facto,” meaning that no matter what white people do, no matter how far they bend over backward to right any wrong, real or imagined, it will never be good enough. Black people are always helpless victims with no will of their own and no means to move elsewhere if they choose.
Now, the Obama Administration is working to force cities to build housing to force huge numbers of people to live where the Obamites choose, for the good of society, of course. America has decades of precisely that kind of failed social engineering from which to draw pertinent lessons. Politicians and bureaucrats engaging in communistic central planning always cause disaster.
Aggressive law enforcement gives criminal records to large numbers of people for offenses that would go unnoticed elsewhere, diminishing their prospects and increasing the chances that they will engage in ways large and small in the illegal economy. That means more crime, more law enforcement and the perpetuation of a vicious cycle. It’s not necessarily that the officers chased Freddie Gray because he was black, it’s that he almost certainly wouldn’t have been on that corner if he hadn’t been.
Translation: when police arrest (black) people that are committing crimes, they have no choice but to commit more and worse crimes, which causes the evil, unreasonable police to arrest those same people for more serious crimes, which those people would never have committed if Marilyn Mosby and people like her didn’t tell the police where to focus their efforts. And it wasn’t Freddie Gray’s fault. If he wasn’t black, he wouldn’t have been on that corner in the first place, which is also true if he were an Asian female, a French poodle, or a 1974 Chevrolet pickup truck. All of this, of course, is the fault of the police.
Mr. Frosh is right. There is no place for racial profiling in Maryland law enforcement. His office needs to do all the training, monitoring and analysis it can to make sure it doesn’t occur. But the rest of us need to remember that eliminating conscious bias is only the first step.
Really. And what would the following steps look like? It’s a safe bet that the fair and equal enforcement of the rule of law would have no place in this brave, new world. The AG has no place in this. The courts—and police agencies and the elected representatives that oversee them—are charged with enforcing lawful policing. When state and federal officials are involved, it is usually to perpetuate a political witch hunt and to hamper effective law enforcement, not to assist it.
The Terry issue in the Gray case has arisen because the Prosecution has chosen to claim that the officers arresting Gray committed a false arrest, an arrest so far outside Terry as to be plainly unlawful. There is—at least publically—no such evidence as yet, and the prosecution is unlikely to be able to produce any.
What is known is that Gray was loitering on a corner known for drug dealing. Gray himself was known for drug dealing, and behaved in such a way as to attract the officer’s attention. As they moved to speak with him, Gray panicked and ran. Any competent police officer would have reasonable suspicion to believe Gray was committing or about to commit a crime. When they caught Gray after a brief chase, they found a knife illegal under Baltimore ordinance and arrested him.
While the Prosecution disputes much of this, the officer’s stop and frisk of Gray was, based on what is currently know, a textbook case of a proper and lawful Terry stop.
Not that that matters to people like Frosh.
As we watch the “Black Lives Matter” “movement” inevitably degenerate into what it always was—an expression of racist rage against the police—it’s wise to keep in mind that every issue raised by The Sun may be safely and efficiently handled by well-established existing mechanisms, but that’s not what The Sun, and like-minded social justice cracktivists, seek. There’s no money or political advantage in it.